Kentucky will start practice Monday without one of its top wide receivers, but coaches are hopeful that Alexander Montgomery will be ready to go by the season opener.
The sophomore, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in early November, had a setback during rehabilitation and probably will miss the first two weeks of camp, coaches said at the annual Big Blue Kickoff luncheon at the Hyatt.
"Alex Montgomery is a guy that we need to get healthy," head coach Mark Stoops said Friday. "He had a little setback and won't be ready to go day one on Monday."
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown clarified after the luncheon that Montgomery could miss as much as the first two weeks of camp.
Montgomery hurt his knee during the Alabama State game while chest bumping one of his teammates after one of his two touchdowns. The wide-out finished the season as the Cats' sixth-leading receiver with 16 catches for 137 yards and two scores.
UK's third-leading receiver, sophomore Jeff Badet, is cleared to start practicing Monday, but will be limited early on as he continues to recover from the broken fibula he sustained at the end of spring practice, Brown said.
He won't be able to do the same number of reps early on, but he should be fine, Brown said of Badet, who had 22 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown in nine games last season.
Kentucky returns five of its top six wide receivers from last season, including Javess Blue, who missed spring practice after shoulder surgery but will be back. Blue led the Cats with 43 catches for 586 yards and four touchdowns.
When they get fully healed, the Cats return 73.2 percent of their receiving yards from last season, including their top four pass-catchers in Blue, Ryan Timmons, Badet and Demarco Robinson.
The coaches said they expect it to be a much-improved group.
"You've got to remember we go back to a year ago four of our top five receivers didn't go through spring ball, so we spent the first three weeks of the season last season teaching them what to do," Brown said. "You're talking about a junior-college transfer and three true freshmen playing at wide-out against maybe the toughest schedule in the country."
Blue and Timmons, the Cats' two best receivers last season, will be better this year, he said.
The offensive coordinator is looking for more in general from a group of receivers
"Now who's going to step up?" he asked out loud. "Will it be a Rashad Cunningham? Can it be a Garrett Johnson, who's a true freshman? We need a Dorian Baker or a Blake Bone. We need one of those two guys to step up."
The one receiver who wasn't mentioned at Friday's banquet was Robinson, the Cats' fourth-leading receiver last season, who was suspended the last two games of 2013 for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Last week, Stoops said Robinson still had "some additional penalties" to go through before he was out of the doghouse. Robinson participated in the spring game and had eight catches for 115 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown catch.
'A good-looking group'
Stoops reported that 26 of the 28 freshmen from UK's incoming class were on campus as of Friday afternoon and ready for the start of camp.
"The 27th will be here tomorrow and we're working on the 28th," Stoops told the crowd at the kickoff luncheon.
The 27th probably is junior-college linebacker Ryan Flannigan, who has been tweeting his journey from Texas to Lexington this week, with No. 28 probably being safety Mike Edwards, who told the Herald-Leader this summer that he would not be enrolling at UK because of a shoulder injury.
Edwards and UK's coaches have indicated he will defer enrollment until January and be ready for spring practice.
As for the other newcomers, Stoops likes what he sees so far.
"That's a good-looking group," he said. "Very good-looking group. They've done extremely well this summer both in the classroom and on the field. Let me tell you this: They look the part. We're going to make those strength and conditioning coaches look a lot better."